This article explores one school’s journey to invite parents into the planning process in order to build parent agency and strengthen the learning community.
Parent workshops in schools implementing the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) are a natural way to support the community in understanding the programme. At the International School of Helsinki, we offer many parent workshops such as An introduction to the PYP, Assessment in the PYP and The exhibition. This year, the early years team and I embarked on a new series of parent workshops, Building a unit of inquiry in an effort to support parent agency and strengthen our learning community.
The teachers of our Explorers class, ages 4-6 year olds, invited the class parents to plan our next unit of inquiry under the transdisciplinary theme of “where we are in place and time”.
This was planned as a 3-part series, including:
- Session 1—Tuning in and building our central idea
- Session 2—Lines of inquiry and teacher questions
- Session 3—Learning experiences
Our first session included unpacking the transdisciplinary theme. After sharing the aspects of the theme our unit would focus on and the key concepts, as determined by our school’s vertical alignment, we spent time exploring the criteria for a central idea. Together we generated many ideas and composed draft central ideas.
During our second session, we confirmed our central idea: “Home and families change over time” and explored the criteria for lines of inquiry. We also reviewed our key concepts. This experience allowed the parents to see how the lines of inquiry provide a scope for as well as extend the inquiry.
We began our third session with sharing the inquiry journey thus far. By doing so, the parents were able to understand how the decisions we made in collaboration with them were being implemented in the learning and teaching of the unit. This process also highlighted the need for students to further explore the concept of how families change. As a group, we brainstormed ideas on how to provide experiences for our students to further understand this concept. Next steps include a scheduled Skype call with grandparents in home countries, parents reading a story to class related to change in families and inviting a family with a new baby into in the class.
We feel the new series of workshops were a success. The commitment and contributions from the parents were amazing as was the feedback from our parents in order to feedforward our planning for future workshop series.
I found the experience a very rewarding and insightful one. It was interesting to see how the teachers approached the planning process. It gave me a much better understanding of the PYP. – Explorers parent
Sharyn Skrtic is the Lower School Assistant Principal and PYP coordinator at the International School of Helsinki in Finland. She is both an online and face-to-face PYP Workshop Leader and School Visit Team Member. Sharyn has presented at educational conferences, including The Association of German International Schools Conference, 21st Century Learning Hong Kong Conference, and the IB Asia-Pacific Conference in Macau in 2015. She tweets @shaza33.